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Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR)
Optimized image 56610a4a.png
Locale Hong Kong
Transit type
Number of lines 4 (3 railway lines, 1 light rail system)
Number of stations 33 railway stations, 68 light rail stations
Daily ridership about 1.49 million (2006)
Began operation October 10, 1911
Ended operation December 2, 2007 (operation taken over by MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL))
Operator(s) MTR Corporation Limited
System length 120.5 km (75 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (standard gauge)

The Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR; Traditional Chinese: 九廣鐵路) refers to a railway network in Hong Kong[1] which is now combined with the MTR railway system, comprising rapid transit services, a light rail system and feeder bus routes within Hong Kong, and intercity passenger and freight train services to the rest of China. Since 2 December 2007, the network has been operated by the MTR Corporation Limited under a 50-year service concession, which is extendable. Ownership has continued to be held by its previous operator, the government-owned Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation. In 2006, the local KCR passenger train network (i.e. intercity services excluded) recorded an annual ridership of 544 million.

Before the rebranding in 1996, "Kowloon-Canton Railway" or "KCR" referred to the railway that runs between Kowloon in Hong Kong and the city of Canton (now Guangzhou) in Guangdong province. When Hong Kong was under British rule, the section of this railway that lies within the territory of Hong Kong was known as the "British Section", which largely corresponded to the present-day East Rail Line. The Chinese Section of the original Kowloon-Canton Railway is called the Guangshen Railway.



A historical KCR Sir Alexander Locomotive.

The original Kowloon-Canton Railway was opened in 1911 as a rail link between Kowloon in Hong Kong, then a British crown colony, and the Chinese city of Canton (now Guangzhou).[2] The founding member of the former KCR network, the British Section of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, was opened in 1910. Trains were steam-hauled. From the one line railroad, the KCR network was expanded to 3 railway lines and a light railway system, with 32 railway stations and 68 light rail stations.


Service commenced

Steam locomotive W.G. Bagnall 0-4-4T, used in former Sha Tau Kok Branch Line.

Opened in 1910 as a single-track system, the British Section of the original Kowloon-Canton Railway (roughly corresponds to the present-day East Rail Line). With the Chinese section opened in 1911, through-trains ran from the southern terminus in Tsim Sha Tsui across the border to the southern Chinese city of Canton (now Guangzhou).

At first trains on the British Section ran northwards from a temporary terminus at Kowloon Point through the eastern New Territories up to the border with China at Lo Wu. The permanent southern terminus, Kowloon Station in Tsim Sha Tsui, opened slightly later in 1914.

A narrow gauge railway operating works trains was used in the construction of the standard gauge British Section. The narrow gauge materials were later used to build the now-defunct Sha Tau Kok Railway. After the communist takeover in mainland China in 1949, through-trains were no longer able to cross the border until the service was resumed in 1979.

An expanding network

Map of the KCR network before the railway merger (gray lines belong to the MTR network)
Interior of a refurbished Metro Cammell EMU on the East Rail Line
Interior of the SP1900, one of the newer trains on East Rail and West Rail Lines
KCR Feeder Bus in service.

The British Section of the original Kowloon-Canton Railway was originally operated by a department within the Hong Kong Government. Following the government's plan to corporatise the operation of the railway, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) was established in December 1982, with the government remains as the sole shareholder.

With the development and urbanisation of the New Territories, the British Section has become an important corridor to connect the new towns in eastern New Territories with urban Kowloon. Electrification and conversion to a dual-track system was completed in 1984. Since then, the suburban rail has become much more metro-like. Frequent service is provided, and in the 1990s trains were refurbished to provide less seats and more standing places.

In 1984, the KCRC accepted the government's invitation to build and operate a light rail system in northwestern New Territories. The Light Rail Transit (known later as the KCR Light Rail, and now simply the Light Rail) was opened in 1988.

The KCRC won a bid in 1996 to build a "Western Corridor Railway", later branded as the KCR West Rail and opened in 2003. The British Section of the original Kowloon-Canton Railway was renamed KCR East Rail, and the LRT became KCR Light Rail. The names "Kowloon-Canton Railway" or "KCR" has become to refer to the network operated by the KCRC. The KCR Ma On Shan Rail was opened in 2004 as a branch line to the KCR East Rail.

A list of original stations of the KCR British Section:

Takeover by MTRCL

Various proposals to merge the KCRC and the other railway operator in the territory, the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) has been on government's agenda since the 2000s. In 2006, the government, as the sole shareholder of the KCRC, decided that the two railway networks should be merged with the MTRCL being granted a service concession to operate the KCR network for an initial period of 50 years. The decision was passed by the Executive Council on 11 April 2006, and was later approved by the Legislative Council and the minority shareholders of the MTRCL [3] (the government, which had a 75% stake in the MTRCL, did not vote).

It was later decided that the merging of the corporations' two rail networks would take place on December 2, 2007. Since then the KCRC has become a holding company. Under the service concession, the MTRCL pays the KCRC a fixed annual sum of HK$750 million, and from the fourth year after merger of the two networks, a sliding percentage scale share of annual revenue above HK$2.5 billion earned from the KCRC network.

As part of the merger, the KCR East Rail, KCR West Rail and KCR Ma On Shan Rail were renamed East Rail Line, West Rail Line and Ma On Shan Line. The KCR Light Rail is known simply as the Light Rail. Mong Kok Station on the East Rail was renamed Mong Kok East Station.

Express Rail Link proposal

On 2 August 2007, Chief Executive Donald Tsang announced that, considering the technical requirements, passenger forecast, Hong Kong's future economic development and the closer trade ties between Hong Kong and Guangdong, the new Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link will adopt the dedicated-corridor option after the 10th Plenary of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference. The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation has submitted a detailed project proposal to the government.[1] Because of the merger, however, it is unlikely the Rail Link will be built and operated by the KCRC.

Criticism of ontrain advertising

In the past few years the subject of invasive marketing has arisen with the advent of television screens on carriages. The first few weeks saw several hundred complaints as the volume level was turned up to maximum in order to help generate revenue from marketing. After several weeks of complaints the company eventually backed down and introduced two 'quiet cars' to the rolling stock offering a peaceful respite for passengers. Other complaints included window advertising which blocked the views outside and made some passengers travel sick. Although windows continue to be obscured making viewing of the exterior difficult and travel less comfortable for passengers, the company has responded to complaints by reducing the size of the advertisements.

Fares and tickets

Currently, there are two different fare classes on the KCR: Adult and Concessionary. Only children between the ages of 3 and 12, and senior citizens 65 years or over qualify for the concessionary rate. Unlike the MTR, the KCR does not provide a concessionary fare for students, although there is a student discount system available for students who live in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai.

Fares on the East Rail, Ma On Shan Rail, West Rail and the Light Rail (Octopus fare system only) are based on the distance between the start and end points of the journey. The fare range for each line is as follows (As of 2005):

The fare for first-class service on the East Rail is double that of normal fares. Fares to Lo Wu are substantially higher than fares to the station just before, Sheung Shui (about $11 from East TST) because of a tariff imposed on those travelling across the border to mainland China. There are quirks in the fare system, however. For example, when using an Octopus card for a trip from any station in Kowloon to Lo Wu, it is less expensive to exit the station at Fanling or Sheung Shui and re-enter the station instead of staying aboard the train the whole way to Lo Wu, as you would be charged for the majority length of the trip without the tariff to the mainland and only be charged the tariff for the relatively short distance between Fanling or Sheung Shui and Lo Wu, resulting in a $4.0 savings in either direction.

A 10% discount currently applies to fares for the West Rail.

The Light Rail implements a zone-based fare system for single journey tickets. There are six zones in total, and adult fares range from HK$4.0-$5.8 while concessionary fares range from HK$2.0-2.9 (as of 2005).

There are two payment methods:

  • Octopus card
  • Single Journey Ticket

Octopus card

The octopus card is a very popular form of payment among travellers on the KCR network.

In 1998, the MTR and KCR started using the Octopus Access Control System as the main payment method for travel on its network, replacing the Common Stored Value Tickets. Octopus cards are rechargeable, contactless smart cards, thus the value of the money is digitally stored in the card, and the amount can be automatically calculated and deducted by Octopus card readers. The system was originally proposed and introduced by the MTR. It has been extended to different services such as minibuses, franchised buses such as the Kowloon Motor Bus and Citybus, supermarkets, and fast food restaurants. It has the potential to be further developed in other fields of services. The older, traditional magnetic ticketing system is also still in use for single journeys.

Using the Octopus card to travel on the KCR is slightly cheaper than using single journey tickets. Various discount schemes on different lines, and free or discounted transfer to other modes of transport have to be done through Octopus Card.

Rolling stock


Manufacturer Model Type Numbers Year
Electro-Motive Diesel Canada/Clyde Engineering Australia EMD G26 CU diesel loco 3 diesel locomotives (1974-1977)
Siemens (Germany) ER20 locomotive 5 diesel locomotives 2002
Adtranz-SLM Lok 2000 locomotive 2 electric locomotives 1997

Passenger trains

Manufacturer Model Numbers Year enter service Notes
Metro-Cammell EMU England 348 out of 351 cars (all underwent mid-life refurbishment between 1996 - 1999) Handicapped/disabled access 1983
Kinki Sharyo EMU SP1900 96 cars Handicapped/disabled access 2001 East Rail service
Itochu/Kinki Sharyo/Kawasaki Heavy Industries consortium EMU SP1900 154 cars (2001) Handicapped/disabled access 2003 West Rail service
Kinki Sharyo EMU SP1950 72 cars (same model as SP1900) Handicapped/disabled access 2004 Ma On Shan Rail
Kinki Sharyo KTT passenger coaches 12 1998 for service between Guangzhou and Kowloon)4

Light Rail

Manufacturer Model Numbers Year enter service Notes
Comeng (Australia) LRV 70 units 1988
Kawasaki Heavy Industries (Japan) LRV (DT/MT) 30 units 1992-1993
A. Goninan (Australia) LRV 20 units 1997-1998
N/A ballast car N/A N/A

Feeder Buses

Manufacturer/Model Numbers Year entered service Fleet number
Volvo B10M (Sweden) 15 1995 401-415
Dennis Dart (UK) 3 1995 501-503
Dennis Trident (UK) 22+53(second hand) 1999-2000 601-622, 701-753
Volvo Olympian 15 1997-1998 225-239
Alexander Dennis Enviro500 (UK) 24 2008 801-824
Alexander Dennis Enviro200 Dart (UK) 11 2008 901-911

Updated: Dec 2009

Service Vehicles

Manufacturer Model Numbers Year enter service Notes
small crane car
 Germany 25t crane
crane with services wagon
services Wagon
Plasser and Theurer track machine
maintenance wagon
Overhead cable inspection vehicle
Plasser & Theurer. Bauart 08-275 Unimat 3S
JMY450B diesel loco

²This steam engine was once used on the Sha Tau Kok Branch Line, but since its closing in 1924, the engine has been displayed in the Tai Po Railway Museum. It has been the only steam engine in Hong Kong for over 40 years (since the KCR last used a steam engine).
³Unit E44 (cars 144-244-444) didn't undergo refurbishment, and #144 is now kept at the Tai Po Railway Museum for display.
4All Kinki Sharyo stock are purchased and imported from Japan.

Future expansion

Northern Link

The Northern Link will be a rail link which connects West Rail and the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line of East Rail. The link will also serve as a connection to the boundary checkpoint into Shenzhen and Guangzhou for passengers of the western part of the New Territories. The Northern Link will start at Kam Sheung Road and end at Lok Ma Chau, where it will co-terminate with the East Rail Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. KCRC proposed to build a station at Chau Tau for interchange between this link and East Rail.

It is reported that the line may be built as a single-track railway to achieve cost-effectiveness. Under some of the earlier proposals, the link will serve as one of the sections of the Regional Express, a new intercity service connecting Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Kowloon Southern Link

The KCRC has made proposals to plan, build, and operate the Kowloon Southern Link receiving permission for the project from the government on 24 September 2002.

The 4.5 km Kowloon Southern Link will connect the West Rail Nam Cheong station with the East Rail East Tsim Sha Tsui station with an intermediate stop at West Kowloon. Upon completion, West Rail will run to Hung Hom station and East Rail will retreat its service back to Hung Hom. The station will become the interchange between East Rail, West Rail and the proposed Sha Tin-to-Central Link. Journey time from Tin Shui Wai to East Tsim Sha Tsui will be 30 minutes.

Disputes on the funding and location of Canton Road station in Tsim Sha Tsui, which was in the proposed alignment, postponed the construction by a year to 2005. Construction started on 7 November 2005. The new link will start operation in 2009.

Sha Tin to Central Link

On 25 June 2002 the government announced that KCRC had won its bid to build and operate the Sha Tin to Central Link. When the line is completed, the KCR network will cross Victoria Harbour and reach Hong Kong Island for the first time. Later the KCRC announced modification to the proposal, with the East Kowloon portion of the line joining Ma On Shan Rail at Tai Wai, and the cross-harbour portion joining East Rail at Hung Hom. However, the proposal has not been approved by the government yet.

On 11 April 2006, the government has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with MTRC and KCRC on merging the two railway companies.

According to the non-binding memorandum of understanding signed with the government, the current MTR lines may fully integrate the interchange stations with the Sha Tin to Central Link in order to bring more convenience to the passengers. Also, the government will conduct further studies on the proposal with the MTRC along with the Kwun Tong Line Extension. According to South China Morning Post, construction will start in 2010.


Some of these are located at the Hong Kong Railway Museum in Tai Po, but most were scrapped when the KCR changed to modern rolling stock in the 1970s:

Manufacturer Model Numbers Service years Notes
First Class Passenger Carriage 1960s
Hand Cart
Motorized rail car
Leeds Forge Co., Ltd. of Leeds, Yorkshire First Class Dining Carriage
65 tons breakdown crane car
Hall-Scott Petrol motor coaches (USA) 2 1920s renamed Taipo Belle and Canton Belle
Kitson 4-6-4 Tank Engine 1924
Kitson 4-6-0 Passenger Locomotive 1930
Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns 260 Tank Engine 1940s
1st Class lounge & observation cars
(British Ex-War Department) 2-8-0 steam tenders 9 1946
W.G. Bagnall engines
Clyde Engineering (Australia) EMD G12 diesel locomotives 5 1954-1957
Clyde Engineering (Australia) Electro-Motive Diesel USA EMD G16 diesel locomotives 4 1961-1966
W.G. Bagnall 0-4-4T (UK) steam locomotive 2 1924
Class 1 2-6-4T steam locomotive
Class 3 2-6-4T steam locomotive
Class 9 4-6-4T steam locomotive
Class 15 4-6-0T steam locomotive
Class 21 2-8-0 steam locomotive
- third-class open-verandah coach 1911
- First-class coach 1964
Luggage compartment coach 1955
Kinki Sharyo ordinary class coach 1974
Kinki Sharyo third-class coach 1974
Engineering coach 1921



The KCR line runs under two tunnels:

See also


There is a documentary about KCR called HONGKONG TRAIN, detailing the history of KCR from its early beginnings to the 1980s.


  1. ^ Legislative Council information paper CB(1)357/07-08(01), THB(T) CR 8/986/00
  2. ^ The remaining section, i.e., the Chinese Section, corresponds to the present-day Guangzhou-Shenzhen Section of the Guangshen Railway Corporation (Simplified Chinese: 广深铁路).
  3. ^ Dan, Liu, editor; Xinhua (April 11, 2006). "HK railway merger proposal gets green light". Retrieved April 11, 2006.  
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